I was driving through South Carolina the other day and heard the Indigo Girls singing "Galileo" on Charleston's 105.5 FM, "The Bridge." I once had the pleasure of meeting the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers, whose father, Don Saliers, is a theology professor at Emory University's Candler School of theology. (If you watch the video, Emily is the redhead.) This was several years ago, when "Uncle John's Band" and "Closer to Fine" were the only songs of theirs I had heard. Galileo is a catchy song—great harmony, nice rhythm, and a clean, acoustic sound. But the lyrics are something else.
...and then you had to bring up reincarnation
over a couple of beers the other night;
and now I'm serving time for mistakes
made by another in another lifetime.
How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
king of night vision, king of insight.
Now maybe the Indigo Girls are just playing with ideas—entertainers have been known to do that. But—pardon my bluntness—reincarnation has always struck me as being one of the most futile attempts to explain the inadequacy and frustration human beings feel as a result of the whole cycle of sin, guilt, and quest for redemption that everyone (in every culture) experiences in some form or another.
The Apostle Paul expressed this same frustration when he wrote: "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)
It is also what Paul meant when he wrote that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So in answer to the question, "How long till my soul gets it right?" the bad news is that no soul ever gets it right.
Fortunately, that is not all Paul has to say in Romans 3: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
And later he says, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). That is the GOOD NEWS—that while no soul ever gets it right, we don't have to! God loves the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God's Son has gotten it right for us, so that we are not trapped in a cycle of death and rebirth, but can have eternal life, through faith in him.
The answer won't be found in Galileo or any other human teacher, unless they point to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us... "and to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (John 1:12).
I hope I meet Emily Saliers again someday. We have a lot to talk about.